Thursday, April 9, 2009

Govt To Lower Forecast

Source : The Straits Times, April 9, 2009

Layoffs will likely cross 10,000 mark but it is better than expected

SINGAPORE's economy is shrinking further.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday said the Government is to revise downwards its growth forecast, the third change in less than four months.

Mr Lee (left) said Singapore's exports have been hit hard and the global situation is not looking any better. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LEE

However, Mr Lee does not see it slipping into the 'double-digit range'.

The further contraction stems from the continuing slide in exports caused by the global economic slowdown, he said.

The current official forecast range is -2 to -5 per cent.

The new downgrade will be out next Tuesday when the Trade and Industry Ministry releases its official forecast 'but we must expect them to revise the forecast down,' Mr Lee said.

'I think it will be poorer than we had projected in January before the Budget when we said it was between -2 to -5 per cent...But I do not think it will be in the double digit range,' he added.

Mr Lee did not elaborate but in pointing to the worsening trade figures, he cited how Japan's February exports had halved.

'Our exports went down by one-third. If you look at February and March, it's about hanging in there or even up a little bit but basically at a very low level.'

To add to the grim outlook, Mr Lee said layoffs in the first three months of this year will probably exceed 10,000.

It will be the worst ever, surpassing the quarterly peak of 8,590 in the last quarter of 2001, following the bust and the Sept 11 attacks on the US.

But, he added, 'the numbers have been better than we feared' as the Government was bracing itself for a 'very big wave' of retrenchments after the Chinese New Year festivities in February.

Mr Lee was speaking to reporters after a 90-minute tour of the labour movement's Employment and Employability Institute. He was accompanied by Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong, labour chief Lim Swee Say and several government and union leaders.

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